Jeff Maehl is an overlooked component of the Oregon scoring machine.
The specter of the Cam Newton recruiting scandal may still be hanging over college football’s national title game, but it’s having little effect on the odds for the January 10 contest from Glendale, Arizona.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC) sent out an opening line of the SEC Auburn Tigers minus 1 ½ over the Pac-10 Oregon Ducks. The spread quickly moved to Auburn minus three at most Vegas and offshore sports books.
Newton has been marred in a ‘pay-for-play’ controversy. His father Cecil tried to sell his services to Mississippi State before landing at Auburn. The NCAA ruled that neither Cam Newton nor Auburn were culpable and he’s eligible to play in the championship game barring new evidence.
Oregon may be a touchdown favorite or more if Newton is ruled ineligible, so the oddsmakers seem confident he’ll play.
Newton is a finalist (and the favorite) for Saturday’s Heisman Trophy. He’ll be joined in New York by Oregon’s LaMichael James, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State’s Kellen Moore. A few writers have taken Newton off their ballot due to the controversy, but he should still walk away with the hardware.
One item that can’t be debated is Newton’s play on the field. He’s first in the nation in passing efficiency (188.2) and the 15th leading rusher (108.4 YPG). He had 335 passing yards, four touchdowns and no picks in the 56-17 SEC title game win over South Carolina. He added 73 rushing yards and two more TDs.
The No. 1 Tigers (13-0 straight-up, 9-4 against the spread) easily ‘covered’ the modest four-point spread against South Carolina and are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games. The offense is scoring 42.7 PPG this year, with the defense allowing 24.5 PPG. The ‘over’ is 6-2 in the last eight games and 8-5 on the season.
Newton’s help on offense comes from freshman running back Michael Dyer (950 yards) and wideout Darvin Adams, who exploded for 217 receiving yards last week. The defense ranks just 54th in the country at 362.2 YPG, but came up big in the stunning 28-27 win at Alabama after trailing 24-0. Holding South Carolina to 17 points last week was also impressive.
No. 2 Oregon (12-0 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) leads the nation in scoring at 49.3 PPG. Sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas came out of nowhere after Jeremiah Masoli was sent packing. Thomas has thrown for 2,518 yards (209.8 YPG vs. Newton’s 199.2) and is the team’s third-leading rusher (488 yards).
James is the only non-quarterback Heisman finalist for a reason. He’s rushed for 1,682 yards even after being suspended for the first game. Opposing defenders have to cheat up on the play-action-pass to James, which gives Thomas plenty of room to throw over the middle.
The Ducks are 1-2 ATS in their last three games after starting 6-2-1 ATS. They almost lost at California, 15-13, as 18 ½-point favorites on Nov. 13 but rebounded with wins over Arizona (48-29) and Oregon (37-20) as 20 ½ and 16-point ‘chalk’ respectively. The offense is not clicking as much as the first nine games, when it averaged 54.7 PPG.
Oregon’s defense is ranked 14th in points (18.4 PPG) and 25th in total yards (331.6 YPG) At least some of the improvement over Auburn is due to an easier schedule. The Ducks have only played two ranked teams (No. 24 USC and No. 21 Arizona).
Auburn has played five ranked teams, with four of them ranked No. 12 or better. The national champion has come from the SEC (Florida, LSU, Florida, Alabama) the last four years.
This is both schools first trip to the national title game and the first meeting against each other.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Auburn’s Gene Chizik are both in their second year. Oregon got upset by Ohio State in the Rose Bowl last year, 26-17 as 4 ½-point favorites. Auburn beat Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, 38-35 as nine-point ‘chalk.’
The ‘under’ is 7-1 in Auburn’s last eight bowl games and 4-1 in Oregon’s last five bowls.
Kickoff from University of Phoenix Stadium is at 5:30 pm (PT).